Why Major in Communication at UMD

By: David

As a double major, one day you will eventually have to prioritize your majors one over the other. In talking with students with a double major, this is typically the case (though not always) with students having the second major supporting their primary major. For me personally, I would say this is especially true with degrees in Communication and Psychology. My main area of focus being Communication and my supporting major being Psychology. In today’s post, I want to highlight the wonders of the Department of Communication here at UMD and why it truly is a “diamond in the rough.” After having conversations with Department Head, Dr. David Gore, Associate Professor Dr. Ryan Goei, and Director of Internships for Communication, Alastair Knowles, I was able to gather an abundance of information from all three in highlighting the Communication department. With that being said, let’s begin!

Overview of the Communication Discipline  

In order to understand the Communication department here at UMD, I find it important to understand the Communication discipline altogether. Generally, Communication programs will have a mixture or divide of the social sciences and humanities (also known as rhetoric in the Communication discipline). You can think of the two as different processes or approaches to communication. On one end, social scientists seek to observe the present, they prefer data, numbers, and statistics where findings can be generalize to the broader population and are concerned with what can be observed in reality. On the opposite end, rhetoricians seek to understand human nature versus predicting it, they prefer concepts related to philosophy, history, and context, and require one core element – the human experience.

In expanding on this topic of social science and rhetoric, let’s explore the concept of fear appeals as an example. A social scientist might look into fear appeals and analyze the effectiveness of fear appeals on people and its ability to persuade. On the other hand, a rhetorician may look at fear appeals, and instead of analyzing the effectiveness, will analyze the ethics of using fear appeals overall. To end, I like to think of social science and rhetoric as an objective and subjective approach to understanding communication. Social science being the objective, while rhetoric being the subjective. Now that we have a basic understanding of the communication discipline as a whole, let’s explore the elements of UMD’s Communication program.

Why Comm

What makes UMD’s Program So Unique and Special?

(1) Healthy Balance of Social Science & Rhetoric
After explaining the two approaches to Communication, one can easily see how a divide or rift may quickly emerge within Communication programs. Fortunately, the professional environment here in the Communication department is one that is quite healthy and friendly where faculty members are open and respectful to one another’s approach to communication. The faculty here see the value in BOTH perspectives and therefore the program creates a flexibility of the mind. Additionally, as a generalist program that offers and requires courses in both approaches students in the program can pick whichever route they prefer. This is possible due to the program being an open-minded program and thus offering a variety of elective courses.  

(2) Top Tier Faculty Members
For starters, UMD attracts some of the best Communication scholars across the nation (and I’m not just saying that out of my own bias, it’s true!). With current scholars contributing major research to their fields to individuals previously winning “Dissertation of the Year” awards to professors writing top papers on a national AND international scale, they are here at the UMD Communication Department. Here’s a list of the faculty recognition in the past decade.

(3) Research & Faculty Mentorship
Despite being a satellite campus of the University of Minnesota, UMD is an extremely unique institution as a whole due to its high level of research productivity and its student population consisting mainly of undergraduate students. Commonly, a high performing research institution would consist of numerous graduate programs and a high percentage of graduate students conducting outstanding research. Here at UMD, we have 90% of our students who are at the undergraduate level, yet still conducting research just as valuable as other top-tier research institutions.

With this unique dynamic of undergraduate students and high caliber faculty, students in the Communication department have direct access to these professors who conduct top-notch quality research. In comparison to other schools, typically this is not the case as top-tier research institutions would require graduate students (MA, Ph.D candidates) to teach these courses with zero to limited access to the professors. To conclude, UMD is best known for its engineering and business programs, and typically not acknowledged for its programs in the social sciences and humanities. As a student in the humanities & social sciences, I will confirm and say that it definitely requires a lot of digging in terms of finding the hidden specialty and uniqueness surrounding these programs like the Communication program here at UMD. That is why it truly is a “diamond in the rough.”

(4) Internships
So what happens if you’re not into academia, scholarship, or research? Well, lucky for you there are opportunities to find hands-on experience through the Communication Internship Program. Ultimately, the program has two objectives, (1) provide students with opportunities to apply what they’re learning in the classroom into the real world, and (2) provide students with opportunities to acquire internships related to a career occupation that they find interesting. In addition to the two, starting the Fall semester of this year, the Communication Internship Program will be implementing a new course in which it will better prepare students for the internship process. Before ending, if you would like to learn more or are having trouble finding a good place to start in terms of internships, you can always refer to the Communication Internship Program comprehensive web page, or better yet, set up an appointment to meet with Alastair Knowles.

David Quote

Final Thoughts & Reflection

In closing, I would like to sum up by talking about my personal experiences and self-reflection. Coming into college as Undecided, I was the type of student who wanted to do everything and had a very hard time deciding a major. Eventually, I would stick to Communication after my first semester taking “Intercultural Communication” and since then have never regretted that decision. As I slowly progressed through the program, I was fortunate to take courses with different instructors and professors who I found to be extremely inspiring and brilliant. Their teaching philosophies, passion for research, and devotion for students motivated me to acquire a hunger to learn more about being an effective and efficient communicator in addition to being a charismatic leader.

Throughout my time here at UMD I would say that many of my favorite professors are mostly, if not all, from the Communication department. As I mentioned in my recent blog posts, my experience as a first-generation student has been a significant factor to my college experience altogether. As a first-gen student, there were many moments of insecurity in terms of my academics and intellectual capabilities, but that changed every time I came around the COMM department. Essentially, the COMM department became my safe haven to learn and discuss freely about ideas, history, theories, and communication in practice. The conversations, guidance, and criticism from my professors were all key components to my intellectual and personal growth.

In ending, I know I’m biased when I say that the Communication department here at UMD is perhaps the best program at UMD. But my main point for you, my readers and peers, is to find a program you can be excited about when entering your classes and be hungry to learn in whichever topic or topics interest you most. More than often do I see my peers or other students who come into college and zoom right through to get their degrees and start working right away, but if we just take the time to slow down, relax, and enjoy the time that we’re here the end result will be much more meaningful. Talk to your professors, explore related theories, criticize past research, or even conduct your own research. You never know what you’re truly capable of until you try, and it always helps to have a mentor guide you to your true potential.  

Read David’s other posts

Photo source: Unsplash | Aaron Burden

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